Thursday, May 25, 2017

Lovely But Not What Was Planned

Didn't my sheath dress come out beautifully? Amazing, considering the hot mess it was just a week before completion.

After being worn all day

Because I am into keeping things real, this is how it looked after wearing it for 11 hours. I think the wrinkles/creases are much more pronounced in photos than in real life.  Isn't that always the way?

Here's the story behind this dress. I'm really enjoying having trouser and skirt TNT patterns. So, I decided that I should add a basic bodice block to my TNT catalog for sewing tops and dresses, when married with my pencil skirt block. I love a good sheath dress and have far too few.

I've had McCalls M7279, a Palmer/Pletsch sheath fitting pattern, in my stash for some time. It seemed like a good place to start. The pattern has lots of alteration lines on it and the instructions guide you thru their method of tissue fitting. I started with a size 12 based on my high bust and went from there, doing an FBA, adding length to the bodice and width to the sleeve.  

A few muslins later, I felt like I had the bodice fit worked out well enough. However, the sleeve was still not great. I really think that my body's arm/armscye simply must not be normal.  I worked a bit more on the sleeve but was running out of steam. And since I planned a sleeveless sheath, I decided to go ahead and sew it, leaving further sleeve muslins for another day.

So off I went. I wanted a less conservative neckline than the pattern shows so I traced a copy of my pattern but then lined up and traced off the neckline of M6699, an OOP pattern from a few years ago. I used my TNT sheath for the skirt portion. I picked out a pretty black and white fabric that I bought at Paron fabrics (RIP) and cut away.  This is where things went off the rails.

After multiple muslins, I should have been able to pretty much sew and just tweak the fit here and there. However, the fabric, which was a cotton blend woven with some lycra, turned out to be MUCH more stretchy than anticipated. It may as well have been a knit. My machine kept complaining and making snarled up bobbin nests until I switched to a stretch needle. In the end, I used all stretch/knit fabric techniques and tools for this dress - the seams were finished with my serger and I used a stretch twin needle for the hem.

It was so perfect and then I had to rip it out and redo

My first pass at sewing the dress came out enormous; the dang thing just grew and stretched. And since I had actually sewn the darts, zipper and waist, I had some unpicking to do. The dress was huge everywhere. I even had to undo the finished zipper so I could take one inch out of the waist between the top and bottom halves, like a swayback adjustment. Many hours of fitting ensued, including taking in 2 inches at the waist - 4 inches total circumference. I always find that this much post-cutting manipulating leaves its mark.  My darts are imperfect and refuse to smoothly disappear, although this could also be because of the fabric.

All that aside, when it came to doing the neckline, I had a moment of inspiration. The fabric has two pretty sides which are negatives of each other.  I decided to bind the neck and armscyes with the opposite side of the fabric for a little contrast. I really like the effect even if next time I would trim the armscyes back a little.

I should have stretched the binding a little more when I sewed it for a more snug fit. 

In the end, I do love this dress and I do like the fit, although as a test run for a TNT pattern it is incredibly useless. I learned nothing. I actually may go back and draft a bodice sloper instead of using a commercial pattern. For all the muslins and work, I think it may have been easier to start from my measurements. We shall see.

And here are a few more pictures so you can see how I actually styled and wore it to work the day we did this photo shoot. Bonus: Taco the photo-bomber.

I feel professional, yet chic in this outfit. Ann Taylor would approve, don't you think? LOL  And I did get compliments from my colleagues on the outfit.  Best of all, it is super comfy since it is basically like wearing a knit.

He really is the best accessory

Anyway, I am thinking that I will draft a bodice block instead of altering a pattern. It would at least help me start out closer to the end goal.  Have you drafted a bodice? Do you have a preferred method or set of instructions? 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mom Says Wear Your Sweater

In a major victory for parents, Taco suddenly decided that he wanted to wear his rainbow sweater.

As you will recall, the pattern is Atlantic Coast by Gabrielle Danskknit. The yarn is Mighty Stitch from KnitPicks. It came out super cute but Taco refused to even put it on. Toddlers

My strategy was to be patient. I hung the sweater where he could see it near the front door, occasionally offering it as an option as we would head outside to play.

Yesterday as we were heading out to play, he proactively pointed to it and insisted on wearing it.

Hurrah. Patience pays off.  And it looks like it will most likely still be big enough for a second go round come Autumn.

Happy Monday, Everyone!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Big Batch Cutting: A Method to the Madness or Just Plain Madness?

I could have just as easily called this post "what I'm working on" or "Spring/Summer sewing plans" or something like that.  But I thought it would be better to share what I'm turning over in my head as far as my sewing "method" goes.

Over the winter I tried prepping and cutting patterns and fabric in a big batch rather than one at a time. It happened organically: I had several days off, and once I started prepping and cutting, it seemed logical to just leave everything on the dining room table and cut for a few days. Despite being unplanned, this method of sewing led to a number of positive outcomes - from being less distracted with what to sew next to sewing from stash to having a variety of projects to work on according to my whim and more. My mini wardrobe, my birds skirt outfit and my gold trouser outfit all owe some credit to my having a big pile of garments ready to sew.

So you can see why I would want to repeat that winning situation. However, now that I am purposefully cutting in a big batch I'm pondering where do you stop the cutting and start the sewing? Here's what I have cut so far, with no signs of stopping.

Project pile 

I've begun work on a four piece mini-wardrobe project that is quite different from my last one. All of the pieces will be in the off-white with charcoal pin stripes linen blend fabric from Theory you see above. Queue the mystery music; it's a fun little project.

I also cut a pair of white trousers for summer from my TNT Burda trouser pattern and am figuring out if I have enough yardage left for a companion piece - a jacket or shrug

Hiding underneath the white and off white fabric pile are three knit shirts. All three are from OOP patterns and fabric remnants from other projects or stashed fabrics. I cut these thinking that it would be fun to have some easy projects cut for whenever I need a little pallet cleansing sewing or want a quick and easy project.

All OOP:  the top from Simplicity 4699, and McCalls M6797 and M6326

I also cut 2 more rompers for Taco. Since the romper I made him last summer (B5625) still fits this spring - arguably even better than last summer - I decided to use up some fabric remnants with a few new versions.  The only change I made was to add a little length and width so he has room to grow. Here he is last summer and then on Easter in the madras version of the romper.

A post shared by Clio (@cliophineas) on

So, that is 10 garments cut and ready to sew.  But there's more in the wings!  I have fabric out and prepped for several more garments. And here is where the method begins to teeter on madness. How many cut and prepped garments are too many? I am desperate to sew some summer jumpsuits for myself and some casual pants in addition to a few more baby gifts and a few shirts for Phin. Plus, I am already lining up end of summer/early autumn projects in my head. I recently reorganized my fabric stash and it led to all kinds of inspiration and pulling out of fabrics.

Where does it end? When is it time to put away the cutting mat and get on with sewing?  Do you cut several projects at a time or not? What is your strategy for productive sewing? 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Baby Love: Unselfish Sewing for a Mom to Be!

When my dear friend, Dr K, had her first little guy, way back in 2012, I made her a diaper bag. But now there is a second baby on the way, and so a new project was in order.

Now that I have the benefit of having actually gone thru pregnancy and early parenthood myself, I knew immediately what to make. Of all my own maternity/baby projects, the ones that got the most use are the two cardi-wraps that I made from Simplicity 2603. One and two!

Oooh, here is the zero makeup and hair willy-nilly version of me.

Wow. Now that I am seeing this on me, I'm kicking myself just a tiny bit for giving it away. Ha ha, oh well. I found myself constantly reaching for one of my two cardi-wraps during my maternity leave. During those early months, putting one on over my yoga-pants-and-tank or jeans-and-tank uniform made me feel a bit more pulled together.  Add a necklace and cute flats and it was an outfit.  Also, before I felt comfortable nursing in public, I could drape the wrap like a nursing cover. At home I would snuggle Taco inside the wrap on my chest for some skin-to-skin care.

Anyway, I had some beautiful black tissue weight burnout jersey in my stash that had been waiting for just the right project, and this seemed like it. My thinking was that this would be a good fabric for a summer baby's mom - perfect for warding off air conditioning chilliness and then as a light layer for autumn. My gosh how I loved this fabric right up until the second I started trying to sew it. What a PITA! It had the worst properties of a slithery thin woven paired with the stretchy distortion-provoking qualities of a knit. I'm glad I have a serger; it would have been awful to sew this without one.

I like my pattern placement on the sleeves.

This isn't the last time I will sew this pattern.  And seeing how nice this looks, I can't even swear that this is the last time I will sew burnout, as terrible as it was. I still get a lot of use out of my two cardi-wraps and they are really starting to show it. Replacements will be in order before too long.

Anyway, I saw the mom-to-be on Friday and delivered this gift. I hope she enjoys it during these last weeks of pregnancy and beyond.  And that is that!